Today's Papers

Fly the Friendly Stys

All the majors lead with the main election news: 1) Al Gore’s lawyers today plan to ask the Florida Supreme Court to force the judge hearing Gore’s contest lawsuit to immediately begin a recount of some 13,000 disputed ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. 2) Yesterday, that contest judge, at the request of George W. Bush’s lawyers, decided to have not just those 13,000 ballots moved to his courtroom for a possible recount, but all 1-million-plus ballots cast in the two counties. This will be done via police-escorted truck convoys, starting today. 3) Gore continued making his case to the public with a daylong TV blitz throughout which he said he’s fighting for the principle that every vote should be counted. 4) Florida Gov. Jeb Bush expressed support for the Republican-led Florida Legislature’s developing plans to name its own slate of George W. Bush electors, calling it “an act of courage.” 5) The Bush team opened a privately funded transition operation in suburban Virginia and announced that Colin Powell will travel to Texas today to meet with Bush, and Gore met yesterday with his transition chief.

Each of the majors’ headlines emphasizes a different aspect of the situation. USA Today goes with “JUDGE SEIZES A MILLION BALLOTS.” The New York Times lead–which weighs in with its own survey finding that Americans are deeply divided about the election, not overwhelmingly distressed by it, and doubtful that either candidate would as president be able to transcend partisanship and unite the nation–runs under “PUBLIC SPLITS ON PARTY LINES OVER VOTE AND LONG DELAY.” The Los Angeles Times goes with “GORE PRESSES SWIFT COUNT OF DISPUTE VOTES.” The Washington Post, seizing on Gore’s comment yesterday that if the Florida recounts he’s after are allowed, “we’re going to win this election,” goes with “GORE ASSERTS HE WON IN FLORIDA.”

Of the leads, the LAT’s is the clearest about what the 1-million-ballot transfer means, saying high up that the Bush team is “evidently trying to overwhelm a court system confronted with a legal contest that normally would take months.” The NYT says in its separate front-pager on the ballots that “it could take weeks, if not months, to count them all.”

The WP lead reports that the NAACP announced yesterday that it plans to sue the state of Florida and several of its counties over Election Day irregularities that allegedly denied blacks in that state their right to vote. And the NYT goes long on the front with a detailed look at some of those problems. The general picture the story paints is of record numbers of first-time voters who responded to Democratic Party and civil rights organization outreach efforts overwhelming a system that hadn’t been expecting them. Unlike many other states, explains the Times, Florida says people can vote only if their status as eligible can be confirmed at their polling place, and busy phones meant that often such confirmation wasn’t achieved. The story also says that predominantly black precincts usually lacked laptop computers for this purpose although laptops were frequently available in Hispanic-majority precincts. Additionally, large numbers of non-English-speaking, first-time voters were unable to vote because they were wrongly told that they couldn’t designate an English-speaking assistant to come in the booth with them. The story falls down a bit when it goes on to describe problems allegedly posed for blacks by police presences near their polling places. The Times refers to “what police say was a legitimate robbery investigation” near one and to what “police said … was a random checkpoint that had been set up to conduct routine inspections of drivers” near another. Couldn’t some reporting have shown whether these events were what the police said they were?

The WP fronts a story about the injuries suffered by young Palestinian men during the current fighting. The piece makes it clear that getting shot, even in the legs, even by a rubber bullet, is a disaster. But it’s rather unfair to the Israeli point of view. The lead paragraph reads: “Iyad was shot because he ran too fast. Nshat was shot because he missed his ride. Ronny was shot for throwing a stone. And Abdel Kareem was shot where his two friends died.” Now, that seems a fair description of Iyad, a medic who got shot while jumping out of an ambulance responding to a call for assistance during a firefight, but Nshat, the story reveals in the 19th paragraph, missed his ride when he decided to join a demonstration instead, and he was shot while throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. And Ronny, it turns out (in the 26th paragraph), was hit in the knee after throwing stones at Israeli police for half an hour. Indeed, each of the young men he was with got shot in the knee, which strongly suggests that if the Israeli shooters had wanted to kill them or injure them more seriously, they would have. And Abdel Kareem tells the Post (but the Post doesn’t tell the reader until Paragraph 32) that he was shot after “starting clashes” with Israeli troops and setting fire to a big tire and trying to roll it towards them.

The NYT runs a Reuters dispatch reporting that aviation regulators determined yesterday that U.S. Airways did nothing wrong when it allowed a 300-pound pig to fly first-class recently. The animal was boarded on the grounds that it was accompanying a woman with a heart problem who claimed it helped her relieve stress. Unfortunately while the plane was landing, it also relieved itself throughout the cabin.